34. Blessing God

In by Seth Georgson

I noticed that the EHV translation sometimes refers to believers blessing God. I thought that God blesses us. Can we bless God, who needs nothing from us?

The Hebrew and Greek words for “bless” express the general meaning “to speak something good.”

The subject of these verbs is most often God. When God blesses us, he does not merely speak or promise good things to us. He provides good things to us.

Psalm 5:12

Yes, you bless the righteous, LORD. You surround them with your favor as a shield.

Psalm 65:9-11 You visit the earth and water it. You make it very rich.
God’s stream is filled with water.
You provide grain for them, just as you planned.
10You drench the land’s furrows. You flatten its plowed ground.
You soften it with showers. You bless its crops.
11You crown the year with your goodness.

God’s blessing us consists of three main steps: 1) God promises blessings; 2) God produces blessings; 3) God provides those blessings to us. The first use of “blessing” in Scripture is that God gives good things to believers.

But there is a second common use of “blessing” in Scripture, especially in Psalms. Believers are encouraged to bless God.

Psalm 103:2-5

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
3who pardons all your guilt,
who heals all your diseases,
4who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with mercy and compassion,
5who satisfies your life with goodness,
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

In Psalm 103 we bless God especially for spiritual blessings. In Psalm 104 we bless him for the blessings he gives us through creation and providence.

This second sense of “blessing” is very closely related to “praising” and “thanking,” but it cannot simply be interchanged with them. Hebrew uses distinct verbs to express each concept: bless is barak; praise is halal; thank is yadah. The EHV tries to preserve the distinction of these terms, so that we do not water down the rich variety of terms that the Spirit has provided in Scripture.

In short, God blesses us by giving us gifts. We bless God by praising him.

Closing Doxology of Psalm 72:
Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
Blessed be his glorious name forever.
May the whole earth be filled with his glory.